Johannesburg, 17 August 2020: Online shopping trends were on an upward trajectory long before the pandemic. Enforced national lockdown saw South Africans investigating how to buy toilet paper and pool chlorine from the comfort and safety of their couches.
The rise in popularity of many existing and new online shopping platforms has fueled the notion that buying cars in similar manner will soon be a reality. Is it possible to buy a car online from start to finish and have it delivered to your driveway without ever leaving home? Yes, but it was prior to COVID-19 and only under exceptional circumstances.
According to Mark Dommisse, Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), there is both good and bad news for those hoping to click a webpage button and see a new car magically appear a few days later.
“Many local car brands are currently advertising new methods for South Africans to browse, and in some cases even buy, their next car from home. While these tools are very handy, there are limitations to how far you can travel along this buying journey, despite clever wording which may imply otherwise,” says Dommisse.
… there are some simple reasons why e-commerce and car sales just don’t gel as a realistic option…– Mark Dommisse, Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA)
The fact is these new services offer an elegant way for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers to cast a wider net on a bigger audience, together with convenient solutions for willing participants within that audience. But the progression of any deal will ultimately trickle down to a final transaction between buyer and seller at dealer level.
For most a new or used car is the second highest expense after housing costs, so committing to a large purchase such as this is obviously a bit more complex than ordering a new kettle from Takealot. If your kettle arrives by courier a few days after you enter credit card details and click Buy on your laptop, and you’re not happy with it for whatever reason, you simply return it and get a refund.
Online transactions are governed by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) and it is here that matters such as offer and acceptance, as well as final delivery are regulated– MARK DOMMISSE, CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL AUTOMOBILE DEALERS’ ASSOCIATION (NADA)
Besides the fact that kettles don’t come with a myriad upholstery options, optional features, engine choices and paint finishes, they also don’t often come with mandatory insurance, finance plans, FICA requirements and large price tags. More importantly, it’s unlikely you’d be trading in your old kettle, and this process would certainly require some physical interaction to facilitate – as it does with vehicle trade ins.
“While new digital technologies have, and will continue to accelerate and streamline car buying in South Africa, there are some simple reasons why e-commerce and car sales just don’t gel as a realistic option in the foreseeable future,” says Dommisse.
“While there’s no doubt that for some a car is just an appliance, and the smell of leathers, face-to-face interactions and the feel of steering and gear shifts on test drives don’t rank very highly on importance scales, the vast majority of car shoppers would prefer the touch, feel and smell of a genuine showroom experience, or at least to inspect the goods they’re committing to.
“Then there are the nitty-gritty regulations which take the wind out of the sails of the pure online car buying fantasy. Technically all transactions in South Africa, other than for property, can be concluded with a simple offer and acceptance. But online transactions are governed by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) and it is here that matters such as offer and acceptance, as well as final delivery are regulated”.
The Act is designed for items that are extremely standard and understood by customers – such as a kettle. When it comes to special orders or anything where specifications are set by the consumer, the goods will only be suitable for use or enjoyment by that consumer in particular. Cars often come with many specifiable options, accessories and bolt-on value add products, which would force number of protections generally afforded to consumers by the Act to be excluded.